The 2019 general elections will be most interesting in different ways as they are likely to bring about major changes never seen before in Botswana politics. Firstly, will be the tough competition coming from the opposition for the first time due to their alliance to face the BDP as one block. Secondly, never again will this country ever experience the dominance of one party for up to more than 50 years as has been the case with the BDP, and thirdly, and more importantly, it would appear that the UDC will attain a landslide victory against the BDP. Nevertheless, the extent of margin will largely depend on the extent to which UDC will stay focused as they prepare for the elections. A number of factors that could adversely affect a landslide victory would include allowing conflicts or deep divisions to emerge within the Umbrella, especially at top leadership level. Fighting for positions could also be a danger to the anticipated UDC landslide victory, a situation that calls for Cde Duma Boko and the other three leaders namely, Cde Dumelang Saleshando, Cde Ndaba Gaolathe and Cde Motlatsi Molapise to have no choice but to remain united and support one another at all times. Further significant for these leaders is to continuously educate their members on such issues as party discipline and unity and also having to crack the whip in the event of wayward behaviour and therefore instil the spirit of stability within the organisation. Although maintaining organisational stability is always a daunting task especially in the world of politics, it’s something that can be achievable provided the leadership work together in harmony. What will however, be a major test for the UDC will be implementation of its economic programmes. Having a clearly well-defined manifesto and other policy documents will be good, but having to put them into action will be such a huge challenge given the extent to which the BDP government has been mismanaging and looting the economy especially in the last eight years or so. Given this situation, the UDC leadership should by now be having working teams formed specifically to develop policy plans that would show exactly how they intend implementing their programmes as soon as they ascend to power come 2019.
If this has not yet been done, a way should be found to ensure that it is done as a matter of urgency, as failure to do so could be a recipe for disaster. You see people are not going to wait long before demanding the implementation of programmes UDC would have promised in its campaign to win elections and do better than the BDP. The unemployed youths for instance, will immediately expect the new UDC government to create jobs, while those working for “Ipelegeng” may also expect their jobs to be transformed into formal ones than to continue working as slaves as it’s the case now. Owing to the fact that the issue of job creation is fundamental, the UDC needs a team to come up with a policy plan on job creation, which would show the estimated number of jobs over a given period of time. Another critical area to economic development is tourism, hence the urgent need for UDC to develop a policy plan pertaining to this economic sector. I have argued that while minerals especially diamonds have been the major mainstay of the economy, market forces have shown beyond reasonable doubt that depending entirely on this commodity may be suicidal. Not only diamonds but coal for instance, has also proven to be less of a viable economic product that can be relied upon. In my view the future of this country lies with tourism and therefore a team on job creation would have to work very closely with that of the tourism industry on how the youths could benefit from the latter. For many years in this country tourism has almost been entirely dominated by foreigners in partnership with only one or two privileged locals, to an extent that when one wants to book accommodation at Mashathu or Okavango, this has to be done in Johannesburg giving the impression that these places are part of South Africa. This certainly has to change and it will therefore be significant that UDC shows exactly its role in this industry and how it will ensure that it is wholly in the hands of locals because at the moment it is being exploited to the advantage of foreigners.
Attention should also be given to the education sector, which has been declining in terms of quality over a long period of time. The team assigned this sector should not just look at public education, but also private education which in my view needs to be regulated. One of the areas of concern over the years has been teacher welfare, which the BDP government has either completely failed to address or deliberately chosen to ignore. Issues of welfare in this regard would include salaries, housing and others that the team would have discussed with all Teacher Unions. Further significant is improvement in teaching and learning and some of the areas of concern that should be reflected in the plan have to do with assessment of children with special needs and disabilities, class size, school size, textbooks, automatic promotion, early childhood and others the terms of reference would have deemed worthy to be looked into. Similarly, UDC has to make its position known regarding private schools, some of which were in my view, established mainly to make money than to provide quality education. For instance, who is employed to work in these schools and why? What localisation plans do private schools have in place and how many posts have so far been localised since their establishment? It will also be important look into their salary structures, terms of employment, rationale for tuition fee levied and so on. The Intelligence Services especially DIS in this country have attracted a lot of criticism from the public for different reasons including abuse and mismanagement of public funds as well as alleged cases of intimidation. The UDC has to come out very clearly about the urgent need to do away with DIS or at least reform it in one way or another. With such level of criticism, it is important that UDC comes up with a comprehensive plan regarding the future of Directorate as it appears that with the high possibility of UDCs ascension to power, its days are numbered. Other related Directorates such as DCEC and Ombudsman have also come under fire for lack of powers to effectively service the public, so UDC must come up with a plan pertaining to their empowerment. The country also needs an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to replace the current one that has just become a laughingstock.
Most pathetic is our Parliament which for many years has been completely dominated by the Executive arm of government, and is as good as being non-existent. It’s so powerless that you can’t even tell the difference with Village Development Committees (VDCs). UDC needs a team to explore how it will balance the powers of Parliament with that of the Executive, which would obviously mean an overhaul of the constitution which is now outdated and it’s only there to serve the interests of the few. These are some of the critical areas in which UDC should come up with policy plans that reflect their plan of action in the next 100 days subsequent to the elections, but there are others to do with health, agriculture, youth empowerment and so on. The UDC should therefore ensure that they have comprehensive policy plans for all these sectors ready for implementation soon after Presidential inauguration. Batswana won’t give the new government holiday to think about how they would want to go about implementing their programmes, but will demand for immediate action.
Dr Philip Bulawa is a member of Botswana Congress Party in Tati West, Sekakangwe.